Protist community composition during early phytoplankton blooms in the naturally iron-fertilized Kerguelen area (Southern Ocean)
Abstract. Microbial eukaryotic community composition was examined by 18S rRNA gene tag pyrosequencing, during the early phase of spring phytoplankton blooms induced by natural iron fertilization, off Kerguelen Island in the Southern Ocean (KEOPS2 cruise). A total of 999 operational taxonomical units (OTUs), affiliated to 30 known high-level taxonomic groups, were retrieved from 16 samples collected in the upper 300 m water column. The alveolata group was the most abundant in terms of sequence number and diversity (696 OTUs). The majority of alveolata sequences were affiliated to Dinophyceae and to two major groups of marine alveolates (MALV-I and MALV-II). In the upper 180 m, only 13% of the OTUs were shared between of the fertilized stations and the reference site characterized by high-nutrient low-chlorophyll (HNLC) waters. Fungi and Cercozoa were present in iron-fertilized waters, but almost absent in the HNLC samples, while Haptophyta and Chlorophyta characterized the HNLC sample. Finally, the 300 m depth samples of all stations were differentiated by the presence of MALV-II and Radiolaria. Multivariate analysis, examining the level of similarity between different samples, showed that protistan assemblages differed significantly between the HNLC and iron-fertilized stations, but also between the diverse iron-fertilized blooms.